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Long-term study shows acid pollution in rain decreased with emissions
Date:11/16/2011

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Emissions regulations do have an environmental impact, according to a long-term study of acidic rainfall by researchers at the University of Illinois.

The National Atmospheric Deposition Program collects rainfall samples weekly from more than 250 stations across the United States and analyzes them for pollutants. The program recently released a report detailing trends in acidic rainfall frequency and concentration over 25 years, from 1984 to 2009.

"This is the longest-term, widest-scale precipitation pollution study in the U.S. In particular, we wanted to see how the trends in the pollution and the rain correlated back to emissions regulations," said Christopher Lehmann, a researcher in the program, which is part of the Illinois State Water Survey at the U. of I. "We're seeing regulations on emissions sources having direct and positive impact to reduce pollutants in rain."

The phenomenon commonly known as "acid rain" has widespread effects not only on the ecosystem, but also on infrastructure and the economy. Polluted precipitation adversely affects forestry, fishing, agriculture and other industries. Acid also erodes structures, damaging buildings, roads and bridges.

According to the report, acidic precipitation rain or snowfall with a pH value of 5.0 or less decreased in both frequency and concentration over the 25-year span.

The researchers largely attribute the decrease to the amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 regulating emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, the gases that become sulfuric and nitric acid when mixed with rain water.

"What goes up does come down," Lehmann said. "Rainfall chemistry directly correlates with air pollution. When we looked at the magnitude of the trend, we found it compared very well to the magnitude of the decrease in emissions reported by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)."

According to EPA data, sulfate emissions dropped m
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Contact: Liz Ahlberg
eahlberg@illinois.edu
217-244-1073
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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